Just as they did 4 years ago in EuroBasket 2001, the Croatian national team finished the European Championship in 7th place after beating Russia 92-74 classification game for 7th-8th place on Sunday.
The Russian side finished 8th for the second time in a row.
What a difference a day makes.
One night after shooting just 33% from the field in a loss to France, Lithuania looked like a new team by shooting 62% for the game en route to an 89-78 win over Russia. The victory automatically qualifies Lithuania for FIBA World Championship 2006 in Japan - their first appearance in the competition since 1998.
Despite their 89-78 loss to Lithuania at the 2005 EuroBasket, Russian coach Sergey Babkov and point guard JR Holden see a promising future for Russian basketball.
"Look at Andrei Kirilenko, Sergey Monya, Victor Khryapa. These guys are all really young. And they have a great future," said Holden, an American naturalised Russian who was playing in his first international tournament for the Russian national team.
After disappointing defeats last night, Russia and Lithuania return to the court on Friday to play in a pivotal classification game.
The winner earns the right to play in the game for fifth and sixth place, which would still be enough to automatically qualify for the FIBA World Championship in Japan next year. A seventh or eighth place finish would mean that the teams could only qualify for the World Championship via a wild-card.
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